Monday Evening Book Club January Selection

Image result for handmaid's taleThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet in Forsyth Hall on January 8 at 7 pm. This month we’re discussing The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

About the book…

In this multi-award-winning, bestselling novel, Margaret Atwood has created a stunning Orwellian vision of the near future. This is the story of Offred, one of the unfortunate “Handmaids” under the new social order who have only one purpose: to breed. In Gilead, where women are prohibited from holding jobs, reading, and forming friendships, Offred’s persistent memories of life in the “time before” and her will to survive are acts of rebellion. Provocative, startling, prophetic, and with Margaret Atwood’s devastating irony, wit, and acute perceptive powers in full force, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once a mordant satire and a dire warning.

Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; The Year of the Flood; and MaddAddam. She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award, and lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson. (Publisher)

What critics said about The Handmaid’s Tale back in the 1980’s

Haunted by The Handmaid’s Tale – an article about the book by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood: The prophet of dystopia (New Yorker)

Emma Watson interviews Margaret Atwood about The Handmaid’s Tale

Make Margaret Atwood Fiction Again (Boston Review)

Monday Evening Book Club November Selection

Our Souls at nightThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet in the Training Room on November 13 at 7 pm. This month we’re discussing Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf.

About the book …

A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future.

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters.
Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.
Their brave adventures—their pleasures and their difficulties—are hugely involving and truly resonant, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer’s enduring contribution to American literature. (From the publisher.)

About the author …

Alan Kent Haruf was an American novelist and author of six novels, all set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado.

Life
Haruf was born in Pueblo, Colorado, the son of a Methodist minister. He graduated with a BA from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1965, where he would later teach, and earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1973.
Before becoming a writer, Haruf worked in a variety of places, including a chicken farm in Colorado, a construction site in Wyoming, a rehabilitation hospital in Denver, a hospital in Phoenix, a presidential library in Iowa, an alternative high school in Wisconsin, as an English teacher with the Peace Corps in Turkey, and colleges in Nebraska and Illinois.
He lived with his wife, Cathy, in Salida, Colorado until his death in 2014. He had three daughters from his first marriage.

Works
All of Haruf’s novels take place in the fictional town of Holt, in eastern Colorado, a town based on Yuma, Colorado, one of Haruf’s residences in the early 1980s. His first novel, The Tie That Binds(1984), received a Whiting Award and a special Hemingway Foundation/PEN citation. Where You Once Belonged followed in 1990. A number of his short stories have appeared in literary magazines.

Plainsong was published in 1999 and became a U.S. bestseller. The New York Times‘ Verlyn Klinkenborg called it “a novel so foursquare, so delicate and lovely, that it has the power to exalt the reader.” Plainsong won the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award and the Maria Thomas Award in Fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction.

Eventide, a sequel to Plainsong, was published in 2004. Library Journal described the writing as “honest storytelling that is compelling and rings true.” Jonathan Miles saw it as a “repeat performance” and “too goodhearted.”

On November 30, 2014, at the age of 71, Kent Haruf died at his home in Salida, Colorado, of interstitial lung disease.

Our Souls at Night, his final work, was published posthumously in 2015 and received wide praise. Ron Charles of the Washington Postcalled it “a tender, carefully polished work that it seems like a blessing we had no right to expect.”

Recognition
1986 – Whiting Award for fiction
1999 – Finalist for the 1999 National Book Award for Plainsong
2005 – Colorado Book Award for Eventide
2005 – Finalist for the Book Sense Award for Eventide
2009 – Dos Passos Prize for Literature
2012 – Wallace Stegner Award
2014 – Folio Prize shortlist for Benediction

Kent Haruf : the complete final interview

A Wall Street Journal interview about the book (video)

Our Souls at Night discussion questions

A NY Times book review

A Guardian book review

A Los Angeles Times obituary

A UK Telegraph obituary

A Q&A with the book’s editor

Our Souls at Night movie

 

Monday Evening Book Club October Selection

The Monday Evening Book Club will meet in the Training Room on October 1Do Not Say We Have Nothing6 at 7 pm. This month we’re discussing Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien.

About the book

In Canada in 1991, ten-year-old Marie and her mother invite a guest into their home: a young woman called Ai-Ming, who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests.

Ai-Ming tells Marie the story of her family in Revolutionary China – from the crowded teahouses in the first days of Chairman Mao’s ascent to the Shanghai Conservatory in the 1960s and the events leading to the Beijing demonstrations of 1989.  It is a story of revolutionary idealism, music, and silence, in which three musicians – the shy and brilliant composer Sparrow, the violin prodigy Zhuli, and the enigmatic pianist Kai – struggle during China’s relentless Cultural Revolution to remain loyal to one another and to the music they have devoted their lives to.  Forced to re-imagine their artistic and private selves, their fates reverberate through the years, with deep and lasting consequences for Ai-Ming – and for Marie.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing was the winner of the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and longlisted for the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. (Publisher)

About Madeleine Thien (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

The Cultural Revolution: All you need to know about China’s political convulsion (The Guardian) 

It was the worst of times: China is still in denial about its “spiritual holocaust” (The Economist)

The Great Leap Forward (Chinese posters)

Tiananmen Square, then and now (The Atlantic)

Do Not Say We Have Nothing (family tree and images on Tumblr)

Madeleine Thien: ‘In China you learn a lot from what people don’t tell you’ (The Guardian) 

Madeleine Thien on the writing process behind her prize-winning novel (Banff Centre)

Quill and Quire book review

New York Times book review

 

 

 

Monday Evening Book Club September Selection

kays-lucky-coin-variety-9781501156120_hrThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet in Forsyth Hall on September 11 at 7 pm. This month we’re discussing Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety by Ann Y.K. Choi.

About the book…

This haunting coming-of-age story, told through the eyes of a rebellious young girl, vividly captures the struggles of families caught between two cultures in the 1980s. Family secrets, a lost sister, forbidden loves, domestic assaults—Mary discovers as she grows up that life is much more complicated than she had ever imagined. Her secret passion for her English teacher is filled with problems and with the arrival of a promising Korean suitor, Joon-Ho, events escalate in ways that she could never have imagined, catching the entire family in a web of deceit and violence.

A unique and imaginative debut novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Varietyevocatively portrays the life of a young Korean-Canadian girl who will not give up on her dreams or her family. (Publisher)

 

Ann Y.K. Choi immigrated to Canada from South Korea in 1975. She attended the University of Toronto where she studied English, Sociology, and Education. She is also a graduate of the Humber School for Writersthe Creative Writing Certificate Program at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies, and National University’s Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing. Published by Simon & Schuster Canada, her debut novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, was a 2016 Toronto Book Awards finalist and one of CBC Books’ “12 Best Canadian Debut Novels of 2016”.

For over 15 years, Ann has been a teacher with the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) working primarily with English language learners, students in Special Education, and students with academic and social-emotional needs. She has served on many committees and groups that address equity issues and student well-being.

As the current chair of the YRDSB Network of Educators for Korean-Canadian Students (NEKS), Ann is committed to providing support for educators who work with students and parents/guardians of Korean-Canadian heritage, as well as to promote opportunities for community building. Ann also serves as a mentor for Arts & Science students at the University of Toronto interested in connecting with alumni established in the Arts industry and is a speaker with Passages Canada. She lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter. (https://annykchoi.com/about/)

Author website

An audio interview & print summary (with CBC’s Shelagh Rogers)

A Gnu Journal interview with Ann Y.K. Choi

Publisher’s Discussion Questions

A Toronto Star book review

A Globe and Mail book review

Yu-Rhee versus Mary: does the name matter? by Ann Y.K. Choi

Ann Y.K. Choi’s essay on getting published

A Global News video clip

A Wikipedia article about the Korean War

Monday Evening Book Club June Selection

Best Kind of peopleThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet in the Training Room on June 12 at 7 pm. This month we’re discussing The Best kind of people by Zoe Whittall.

About the book…

What if someone you trusted was accused of the unthinkable?
George Woodbury, an affable teacher and beloved husband and father, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a prestigious prep school. His wife, Joan, vaults between denial and rage as the community she loved turns on her. Their daughter, Sadie, a popular over-achieving high school senior, becomes a social pariah. Their son, Andrew, assists in his father’s defense, while wrestling with his own unhappy memories of his teen years. A local author tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist attempts to get Sadie onside their cause. With George locked up, how do the members of his family pick up the pieces and keep living their lives? How do they defend someone they love while wrestling with the possibility of his guilt?
With exquisite emotional precision, award-winning author Zoe Whittall explores issues of loyalty, truth, and the meaning of happiness through the lens of an all-American family on the brink of collapse. (Publisher)

Zoe Whittall is the author of The Best Ten Minutes of Your Life (2001), The Emily Valentine Poems (2006), and Precordial Thump (2008), and the editor of Geeks, Misfits, & Outlaws (2003). Her debut novel Bottle Rocket Hearts (2007) made the Globe and Mail Top 100 Books of the Year and CBC Canada Reads’ Top Ten Essential Novels of the Decade. Her second novel Holding Still for as Long as Possible (2009) won a Lambda Literary Award and was an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book. Her writing has appeared in the Walrus, the Believer, the Globe and Mail, the National Post, Fashion, and more. She has also worked as a writer and story editor on the TV shows Degrassi and Schitt’s Creek. Born in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, she has an MFA from the University of Guelph and lives in Toronto.

A Maisonneuve interview with Zoe Whittall

A CBC Radio interview with Zoe Whittall (with Shelagh Rogers)

Publisher’s discussion questions

A Globe and Mail article

A National Post book review

A Winnipeg Review book review

A CTV News story about an upcoming movie adaptation

A Toronto Star editorial about the Jian Ghomeshi trial